Friday, March 2, 2012

Spotlight on......St Johnstone

25th February 2012

Scottish Premier League
St. Johnstone 3-1 Dunfermline
McDiarmid Park, Perth

Attendance: 3,732

Here's a fact - the name St Johnstone came from the colloquial name for Perth - St John’s Toun – named as such in the middle ages because the church at the centre of the parish was dedicated to John the Baptist. 

However, it was on the South side of the city that the team played in their early years, on a piece of land known as the Recreation Grounds. In 1924 they moved to Muirton Park which would serve as the club’s home for the next 65 years until the late 1980s when the club moved again, this time to their present home – McDiarmid Park.

The ground is named as such due to the fact that local farmer, Bruce McDiarmid, donated 16 acres of his own land on which the stadium now stands. Instead of taking the £400,000 that he would’ve been due for this land in the open market, McDiarmid instead “gifted” the land to the people of Perth and, it was only on the insistence of the club that he ultimately ended up taking a 20% shareholding of the football club.

What a guy!

The Stadium (quirkiness and comfort) - 8/10

Anyway, before making my way inside the stadium itself, I decided to have a little look in the Souvenir Shop and boy, I wasn’t disappointed. There was some lovely stuff for sale but the whole purpose of my trip was to see these bad boys in person – the Official St Johnstone FC Roller Blinds!

Only £69!

St Johnstone also allow the community to stick up posters in their club shop, which is a nice touch. A bizarre couple of little posters below, though.

 Skababs - delicious!

"Donna" - questionable!

The stadium itself remains a nice one in which to watch football. It’s very comfortable and is holding up well for somewhere that has undergone little serious maintenance since it opened 20 years ago. The Ormond Stand (home stand usually closed on match-days, except when the Old Firm visit) and North Stand (usually the away end for some of the bigger games) sit behind each goal with the Main Stand sitting opposite the East Stand which houses the “hardcore” and is the only stand which, at all times, only contains home fans – I sat in here with a couple of mates, one of whom is a Saints regular.

Ormond & Main Stands...

Main & North Stands... 

Catering (quality and price) 7/10

In terms of the catering in Perth, the usual pie and tea combo set me back £3.10 – which wasn’t too bad. The latter was pretty nice and the former could’ve been worse. It could’ve been better as well mind you but it was packed full of meat and would do a job for anyone with a hunger.

I like the fact Saints have a “Matchday Special” – this time in the form of a Chicken & Ham pie – and fantastic little baked additions to the menu such as locally put together empire biscuits, homemade cookies and bright blue Saints Doughnuts.

Fans (scored on both atmosphere & conduct – sporting behaviour, welcoming nature etc) - 19/25

I know that many a St Johnstone fan (and fans of other clubs most likely) reading this will probably wet themselves laughing when I tell them….the atmosphere at McDiarmid Park vs. Dunfermline was actually pretty good! There was a decent level of noise, fans were getting right behind their team and were, generally, being pretty positive and overall, it was actually a really good experience to be in among the Perth Saintees.

Their mascot “Super Saint” had very little influence on the atmosphere on the day, though. In fact, he mostly walked around looking like a giant penis in a mask for about ten minutes before never being seen again! When compared with Sammy the Tammy or the Northbank Panda….Super Saint has a lot to improve on!

 Super Saint - what a penis...

Generally speaking, the club, and East Stand, has a reputation of being a bit unforgiving. Someone once even said to me “Xavi would even get it tight from the fans in the East Stand” and, at times, they did lose a bit of perspective, but overall it was all pretty inoffensive and good natured.

That said, one guy appeared to have such a serious problem with a linesman that I began to suspect the man in black may have actually been at it with a female family member of the fan.

Good score though for the home fans.

Entertainment on the pitch (quite self explanatory) - 20/25

On the park, St Johnstone have had a lot of praise this season for their performances and their results and they certainly turned on the style in this match. With a particularly impressive first half performance, they could have gone in 6 or 7 ahead instead of the 2-0 lead afforded to them by Murray and Callum Davidson.

 Token match shot...

Had they put in a better all-round second half performance, they’d probably have even scored higher than they did in the end as they really did play some impressive stuff at times. Hitting the bar on four different occasions and causing Dunfermline all sorts of problems, it was a solid 3-1 win in the end for the Perth side. Although Dunfermline were absolutely awful on the day as well.

Some home players worth a mention:

Murray Davidson: What a performance from the boy. Winning every single tackle, he showed all those inside McDiarmid Park why he’s considered such an up and coming midfield talent. Big, strong and powerful in the air, he was key to everything Saints did well, deserving a goal for his all round play.

Lee Croft: “Crofty” this lad had a very good game and, if he is able to perform at this level every week he’ll not be on loan at St Johnstone for long. Undoubtedly, an English club will snap him up. As long as he’s in Perth, though, Saints will enjoy having such a creative, intelligent and direct player at their disposal. He scored the third for the home side too, one well worth checking out via the relevant media channels.

Cilian Sheridan: I’m a huge fan of Francisco Sandaza but on this day, his strike partner was the better performer in my opinion. The big fella has superb game intelligence and awareness of the players around him. He’s strong in the air, good with the ball into feet and has excellent movement. He should have capped off a fine display with Saints’ fourth goal, only to hit the post with a clever chip. The Perth team will be hoping they can keep a hold of him going into next season.

Value for money (what you get for your buck) - 21/30

Thanks to my aforementioned mate, I got into McDiarmid for half price on for this match. However, for £21 I think I’d maybe feel a little hard done by on a week to week basis. The food is fine, the stadium is good to be in and comfortable but I think there would be occasions where a lack of atmosphere and inconsistency on the pitch may leave you feeling that you’ve perhaps overpaid. That said, on this occasion (which is ultimately what I judge clubs on) St Johnstone really did impress in all the areas I’d be looking for from a supporter experience and score quite well indeed. Their SPL aim is top six. I think they may miss out on that in Ode to the Wee Red Book terms but it was enjoyable nonetheless!

Overall score for St Johnstone – 75/100

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